Nick Clegg's NHS letter: Now the nervous wait

There is at first sight something rather puzzling about the deputy prime minister writing a letter calling for his own government's legislation to be amended. This, you might think, is something he could have said behind closed doors to the prime minister and the health secretary.

Well, of course, he has, but the point of today's letter is to to try to give what Mr Clegg calls "final reassurance" to everybody who is anxious about the Health Bill, that the NHS won't be treated, in his words, like "the gas, electricity, or water industry".

Those Mr Clegg is really trying to reassure are in his own party - peers who have the chance to vote on important amendments this week and activists who are being urged to vote to kill the bill in an emergency debate at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in less than a fortnight's time.

That's why Nick Clegg has written his letter with the activists' darling and a member of the Lords - Baroness Shirley Williams.

Their message is that the Lib Dems have made what Mr Clegg's aides say used to be "a bad Bill" better. The message coming from the Conservative side of the Coalition is that if all that the Lib Dems need are what are being described as "minor changes" so be it. Mr Clegg will now wait nervously for the message sent back by his own party.